Today, Mayor Mike McGinn announced a $1.1 million investment in 19 neighborhood business districts, including Beacon Hill, as part of the Seattle Jobs Plan.
Of that $1.1 million, the lion’s share is going toward “comprehensive, multi-year” strategies” developed by the business communities in some neighborhoods, including the Central Area, Chinatown/International District, Columbia City, MLK (Rainier Valley), Rainier Beach, and others. Beacon Hill is not included in this list.
However, $142,500 of the total will be going to support focused investments in certain neighborhoods, along with the Only In Seattle marketing campaign and a drive to form Business Improvement Areas (BIA). Beacon Hill won’t be getting a BIA or the Only In Seattle push, but the neighborhood will be seeing focused investment, as will several other neighborhoods, mostly in south Seattle: Belltown, Columbia City, Georgetown, Madison Valley, Rainier Beach, Sodo, South Park, and White Center. Still, once you divide $142,500 among all of those neighborhoods, it’s probably going to be a relatively small investment here on the Hill.
We’re not yet sure what sort of “focused investments” Beacon Hill is in line for, but we are gathering further information. Stay tuned.
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. — Eleanor Roosevelt
All of this recent rezoning talk has gotten me thinking about North Beacon Hill’s business district. I’ve lived in many different areas of Seattle and although I love Beacon Hill, I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that does not work with our business areas. I love our coffee shops, funky grocery stores, and ethnic restaurants and I do my part to make sure that I spend money locally, but why do I so often find myself leaving the hill for other services? Some of the answer is obvious: when I want to go see a movie I head over to Columbia City Cinema or the Admiral Theater, since this is a service that I just can’t get in our neighborhood. But I also find myself going to Georgetown just to eat dinner or grab a beer after work. If you have been paying any attention you will have noticed that Georgetown has been booming for the last ten years, with many new restaurants and shops and just funky things going on. What do they have that we don’t?
First I decided I should look at available data to see if I could find some truths. According to Zillow.com, Beacon Hill has 4104 residences, our median income is $45,965 (above Seattle’s median income), our highest percentage age group is people in their 30s, and our average household size is 3.107 people. Add to this mix an awesome underground light rail station, stunning views, a large brand-new park coming soon, convenient freeway access, and a location that is a stone’s throw from downtown, and Beacon Hill has been dealt a winning hand.
Now let’s take a minute to look at Georgetown. If you can dodge that freight train and try to concentrate over that low flying plane noise for a minute, let’s try to take a look at their numbers. Depending on where you draw the line, Georgetown has a mere 379 residences, their median income is $33,654 (almost the lowest in Seattle), their highest percentage age group is people in their 20s, and their average household size is 1.94. Add to this mix a few Superfund sites, eclectic zoning, and some disjointed industrial areas, and it’s a wonder that Georgetown survives at all. Despite all of this, Georgetown is not only surviving, but thriving. Their vibrant business district has added new bars and restaurants almost yearly, and their events such as Artopia attract people from all over the region. Music stores, bakeries, multiple coffee shops, pet supplies, a beer store and antique stores have all opened in the last few years.
The Seattle Office of Economic Development (OED) recently released a study focused on retail in Rainier Valley. Although the study didn’t focus on Beacon Hill, one of the study’s main finds was “leakage,” which is roughly defined as people leaving their own neighborhoods to buy products and services in other areas. Just as Beacon Hill clearly suffers from leakage as many people leave the area for basic services, neighborhoods such as Georgetown clearly capitalize on this, since there is no way that the 379 people that live there could possibly support their range of businesses.
It’s hard not to conclude from this data that zoning alone will not fix our business district. Neighborhoods like Georgetown and Columbia City have certain less-measurable qualities about them that have helped them thrive. Chief among them has to be neighborhood pride, creativity, activism, long-term vision, building owners willing to take chances, investors with vision and tough as nails entrepreneurs that are brave enough to swim against our economic current. None of these are qualities that we can zone for; they are qualities that we must earn with a lot of difficult risk, vision, community participation, cooperation and tenacity.
Now we come to some interesting questions. How do we approve or “validate” our North Beacon Hill neighborhood plan recommendations before they are submitted to the City Council in November/December? Of course no one has any idea what exactly will be proposed by Department of Planning and Land Use (DPD) in September. But whatever comes out of the amazing brainstorming that has been going on, be it rerouting car traffic off Beacon Avenue onto 15th to create a bus, bike, pedestrian campus, or increasing zoning heights to 65′, or creating public benefit “baskets” for the key development properties (El Centro, Red Apple, Sound Transit block), or starting a temporary community garden on the empty land around the station, the ideas are all big, bold and exciting.
As a community with a number of different interest groups. we have to vote, or something, to say neah or yeah. And, we have to hope that DPD can correctly interpret our input in the short time between September and November 20 when the proposal must be submitted to Council (unless they give us more time). Who should get to vote, approve or validate our plan? I assume it will be residents and business owners of North Beacon Hill. How will DPD figure out who is validating? Will it just be community or will they inadvertently or intentionally also include developers, or people who don’t live here? Another question that has arisen for me is: how do the small business owners on Beacon Avenue get a fair say? Continue reading Commentary: Stewardship, validation and small business owners→
Today Mayor Greg Nickels presented funding awards totaling $128,384 to 22 Neighborhood Business District Associations throughout Seattle to continue the city’s investments in building healthy communities and supporting our local economy.
Some of the projects funded include the creation of new business organizations, business district promotion (branding, marketing campaigns, farmers market start-up), physical improvement and enhancement projects (leaf clean up, curb bulb landscaping and banners), etc.
The 2009 Neighborhood Business District Awards recipients were:
African Business Association – $5,000
Business Owners of Madrona – $3,500
Capitol Hill Housing – $5,000
Chinatown International District BIA – $7,000
Columbia City Business Association – $11,880
Georgetown Merchants Association – $5,000
Greater Queen Anne Chamber of Commerce – $6,000
Greater Seattle Business Association – $15,000
Greater University Chamber of Commerce – $2,000
Greenwood Phinney Chamber of Commerce – $5,000
Lake City Chamber of Commerce – $5,000
Madison Valley Merchants Association – $4,200
Magnolia Chamber of Commerce – $2,600
Metropolitan Improvement District – $4,144
Picture Perfect Queen Anne – $4,000
Pioneer Square Community Association – $7,500
Rainier Beach Merchants Association – $3,850
Rainier Chamber of Commerce – $3,710
SODO Business Association – $8,000
South Lake Union Chamber of Commerce – $10,000
West Seattle Chamber of Commerce – $5,000
White Center Community Development Association – $5,000
Earlier this evening, I stopped in at Beacon Hill’s newest neighborhood business, Hello Bicycle. Mickey, the owner, has some temporary signage up and the doors open for customers. Still to be worked out are lighting, phone, and additional display racks, but they’ll be happy to show you some bikes for sale, get you some repair parts, or fix and tune your old Schwinn, Mongoose, or Cannondale.
The grand opening is still a little ways off, but feel free to stop in during their “soft opening.” The shop is located at Hanford and Beacon, right across the street from Kusina Filipina.